Why Do You Want Employees In Sports Photography?

Soapbox time! First of all you don’t need them if you don’t want to scale your business and you want to work REALLY, REALLY hard – FOREVER!! Ok, now that I have your attention, let’s talk.

Where do you want to be in 5, 10 or even 15 years?

No, don’t check out yet. Give me 60 seconds. Dream with me for 1 minute. It’s OK, I won’t tell anyone you took 1 minute to yourself to work on your business. Ready? Go… That wasn’t so scary. Kinda cool, actually. You didn’t do it, did you? OK, fine. Let’s move on. Now ask yourself the next question…

How will you get there?

Combined, we have been managing employees for over 30 years. So yes, it’s a bit easier for us. But don’t kid yourself. With 27 employees on the books this year, it’s still a lot of work.

That is one thing that separates us from the pack. I can, at the drop of a hat, set up 8 different stations and knock out a 2,000 student school in a couple of hours. While this is a bit of an overkill statement, I just want to get the wheels turning.

I will admit that the headaches, err… variables that come with maintaining, training, evaluating and firing employees are very real. But with a solid infrastructure, policies, training manuals etc., this doesn’t have to suck.

No photographer was born to be a boss.

I talk to hundreds of photographers throughout the year and we all have a common thread: we did not get into photography to be a boss or to fire someone face to face. We did it for the art. We did it because it’s FUN. And maybe even make some money.

We started bringing on employees back in our portraiture days. This was when my wife and I were still working full time. We thought our hobby was getting out of hand. At that time it was growing way too fast—with no structure, no policies, no training, no employee manuals…nothing. So, we hired our first employee. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The truth is, we were lucky to not get screwed on that one; and on the next one we hired, too. They are both still with us  more than 13 years later. But that’s not always the story.

You need help.

Hiring an employee is just the start. How do you take a complete stranger and turn them into a mini-me? But not so much of a copy that they could walk away and do what I do without me. So, I started thinking about how and why all the standards, training, policies and infrastructure were so regimented at my [other] full time job… DUH!

It’s because if you don’t have the above mentioned in place, you will either watch your business erode away from the actions and decisions of a staff that doesn’t see and care about your product and customers the way you do. Or worse, you will end up in court and lose. Pretty simple, right?

Start off slow and have a game plan.

Decide what you need the most help with and why you need to hire someone. Then get your policies and procedures going. Think about what you do want and what you don’t like, and put it to paper. Add to it whenever you want. And go back and reread it. Delete the stuff you don’t like; it’s yours. And it’s your ability to set standards and communicate expectations to your employees. After that, go talk to an accountant, as they are very well versed in labor.

Should your first employee be full or part-time?

We love seasonal / part-time employees. Spoiler alert: they do come and go like the wind. But each year I get one or two that stay and come back the next year—and that builds my base.

OK, here’s the deal.

We want to grow. So, if I’m doing all the day-to-day work, it will be more than a little difficult to market and work on getting new clients. And if you aren’t growing, you’re dying.

With my team taking care of the day-to-day stuff, I now have time to go get more and more volume schools and sports. And when all that new business gets to be too much, I turn-around and just hire more employees.

It’s a vicious, necessary circle. But that circle will yield you more and more $$$$, along with more and more challenges, the choice is yours. Make it, or don’t.

Danny Rabalais

This article was written by Danny Rabalais. Danny, along with his wife, Dianne, are the owners of Studio 530. Danny and Dianne attribute their unbelievable growth over the last couple of years to the support of this community. They have attended training in Canada, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, Oregon and more, just so they can continue to give their customers the best photography possible. Studio 530 is very passionate about preserving a moment in time, which will be with their customers’ lives’ for a lifetime.

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